Luther, Community, and Remembering The Gospel

7 Aug

Christians often separate themselves from their cities, communities and neighbors as much as possible, barricading themselves inside their church and Christian bubble.  Doing so merely reveals to us how we have forgotten the Gospel yet again.  Martin Luther beautifully reminds us of this, saying:

 “Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him.  On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?”[1]

Oftentimes, Christians are revolted by the sins of those around them, and thus harden themselves against such people.  I know this from my own personal experience and I’m sure you do as well.  However, if we use this as an excuse to remove ourselves from our neighborhood and seek the constant comfort of the church and the Christian subculture, do three things: 1. We make it clear to others that we do not much care for or about them; 2. We view Christianity as a mere moral/ethical system; 3. We snuff out any opportunities we might have to proclaim the Gospel.

Ultimately, excluding ourselves from the communities in which God has placed us is to forget the grace shown to us in the Gospel.  Christians should extend extravagant grace to those in their community, for Christians have been shown extravagant grace by God in Christ.  Make it known to others that you are a recipient of God’s grace, and therefore, you are willing to get to know and love them.

If Christians live with this in mind, unbelievers will see Christianity expressed in ways they have never seen before, and opportunities to share the Gospel and build relationships will arise.  This also allows you to invite these people to experience and engage with the community of believers.  While far from being easy, I believe this is how we should live in the community in which God has placed us.

So, how do you see this in your own life and community?


[1] As quoted by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (Harper & Row Publishers, New York, New York, 1954).

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